Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend with a varied and intriguing history. There are references to both a specific plant species of Za’atar as well as to the spice blend, of which there are many variations depending upon which region it is from. One plant species of Za’atar is a type of wild thyme, commonly called “Persian Za’atar,” and it is found in the hills of the Levant and Mediterranean Middle East. Another is identified as a type of European oregano or wild marjoram, common in Israel and Palestinian territories. Both the herb and the spice blend are popular in Armenia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
The herbs used vary according to region and one reference states that many housewives would keep their Za’atar recipes a secret, even from their daughters. Teeny Tiny Spice Co. Za’atar is our interpretation of this blend, which is so deeply rooted in much of Middle Eastern cuisine. Sumac berries make up its base, with the addition of marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, white sesame seeds and a bit of Himalayan Pink Salt. This blend is lovely mixed with olive oil and then spread on pieces of bread or incorporated into a flatbread dough and baked. It can also be used as a seasoning for meats and vegetables, sprinkled on eggs, added to hummus or used in salad dressing. Try it sprinkled on fresh slices of tomato and mozzarella cheese.
Photo by Stephen Saint-Onge